We’re a group of journalists who noticed the Greater Oviedo community wasn’t getting its story told, so we banded together to form a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on community issues and spends as much time listening to its readers as it does writing stories for them.
By keeping our coverage area small – Oviedo, Winter Springs, Chuluota and Geneva – we’re less likely to miss something important, such as a hot issue being debated in a city meeting, a nail-biter of a high school football game, or a citizen doing a good deed. We also believe that every community is special and has its own story to tell.
As excited as we are to dive into the stories, we are spending time thoughtfully collecting as much public input as possible to learn what information people want and how they want to get it. We are talking to local groups, leaders and individuals, and are circulating a survey.
Oviedo Community News, which exists under the umbrella nonprofit organization Central Florida Community News, is independent and is 501(c)(3)-pending, meaning it will operate under a board of directors. Our funding will come from donations (mostly individual), sponsorships and grants. We maintain editorial independence from donors, which means our funding never influences our coverage plans.
We have created a citizen advisory board that will meet quarterly. This board will help guide our coverage plans, offer new perspectives on the community and the issues it faces, ensure we are meeting the community’s coverage needs, and identify any biases, inaccuracies or grievances in the community. Email email@example.com if you’re interested in joining this board and would like more details.
Fresh out of the University of Central Florida, twin brothers Alex and Isaac Babcock worked for the Seminole Chronicle in 2004 before taking over the then Oviedo Voice in 2007. Jenny Andreasson and Jon Gallagher joined them as a reporter and copy editor, respectively, where they worked as a team to produce news for Greater Oviedo and Winter Springs. That newspaper was brought under the fold of the Winter Park-Maitland Observer [Observer Newspapers] and later evolved into the Seminole Voice, covering all of the county.
Alex took a hiatus from local news and became a journalist in the Army. Isaac stayed on and led the Voice, and Andreasson headed the Observer. In 2008, Observer Newspapers brought on Megan Stokes who led the East Orlando Sun, whose coverage areas included Bithlo and Chuluota. Gallagher copy edited all three publications and helped design them. Eventually Andreasson became managing editor for all three newspapers and she and Isaac married a few years later.
Economic forces and changing media tastes brought the demise of those newspapers, but the five team members stayed in touch. Their shared love of quality journalism and the Greater Oviedo area birthed this project, with the goal of better news coverage for the community.
Folks have busy lives, and it takes a lot of time and resources to sort out the important things happening in their communities. Our goal is to report on the city and county government, the business community, high school sports, education, local events, quality-of-life issues, and human-interest stories that will connect the community, help people make better-informed daily decisions, spark action, seek solutions and, hopefully, brighten some days.
We are a partner with the community through an advisory board, a robust comment section on our social media pages, and attending and hosting local gatherings and thoughtful discussions.
We believe every community has its own voice.
We believe in passionate people who love their community and want to make it the best it can be.
We believe that timely, factual, local information can help improve people’s daily lives, and that curiosity feeds a healthy society and the soul.
We believe in civic engagement, reasonable solutions and peaceful action.
We believe in honesty, on our part and yours. Please don’t be afraid to tell us when you think we got something wrong. Or right.
We believe in inclusion and that a news organization should aim to reflect the diversity of the community it serves in its staff, contributors, news coverage and community advisory board. We believe this should be discussed honestly and regularly to ensure that it remains a priority.
We believe that our newsroom belongs to the people.
We believe in good news. It inspires good deeds and helps to chase down the hard stuff.
We believe in thoughtfulness, fairness, hard work and open communication.
We believe working together is the best way to work.
OCN’s Ethics Policy was drafted using our own beliefs and values as journalists and incorporates ideas from reputable organizations The Society of Professional Journalists, The Colorado Sun and The Denver Post, with input from Trusting News, a national program aimed at understanding and improving trust in news outlets.
We don’t do pay for play
- We do not accept money in exchange for interviews or photos, nor do we pay individuals or organizations for interviews, or to take photos of them.
- If someone witnesses an event and takes a print-worthy photo, we will pay that individual, upon request. We consider this to be no different than paying a freelance photographer to take a photo.
- This does not apply to public records, which in some cases do require a fee for administrative purposes.
We don’t allow pre-publication content reviews
- The OCN team is here to discuss concerns sources may have but pre-published content is not to be shared with anyone outside of the newsroom in order to maintain the work’s authenticity.
- To ensure accuracy, OCN’s policy is to record all interviews.
- We’re human, so sometimes it’s necessary to read information from a pre-published story back to a source to avoid confusion in context or, especially when dealing with complicated topics, substance. Such exceptions are subject to the managing editor’s approval.
Everyone gets a fair shake
- We won’t ambush people or unfairly surprise them. Everyone we seek for a story has 24 hours to respond before the story is published. We will explain in our stories who we tried to contact and how. We will doggedly seek sources on all sides of an issue.
- We seek out underrepresented voices to uncover various perspectives and hidden issues in the community.
We rarely use anonymous sources
- We only promise anonymity to sources if revealing their identity would cause them harm, and if the information we are seeking cannot be obtained elsewhere.
- The same holds true when using first names only to identify sources.
- To clarify, an anonymous source is not anonymous to the journalist, only to the public.
- Our general rule is to identify our sources as clearly as possible.
- Journalists are trained to be skeptical of requests for anonymity.
We are open, honest and direct
- When we contact sources, we are upfront about who we are and what we’re doing. We make it clear that we are reporting on a particular issue. We will never misrepresent ourselves or trick people into giving us information.
- If we learn something that’s available to the general public, such as an announcement being made at an event or a person speaking at a public meeting, we are able to use that information in our reporting.
- Undercover reporting is avoided unless a journalist cannot obtain the information any other way and the information being sought is considered vital to the public.
We’re not out to make people look bad
- Our purpose in covering stories is to inform the community when something is going on that can hurt them, help them, or make them smile. If we see a problem, we want to bring it to light so a solution can be found. A big part of our job is covering the positive things that are happening. People doing good things deserve a shout out. It promotes positive behavior and inspires others.
- As journalists, we hold the powerful accountable and give a voice to the voiceless. This does not mean we’re out to get anyone in a position of power. We want to make sure everyone’s following the rules and acting in good faith.
- We write crime stories only when it poses an ongoing threat to the community, or when our coverage can help the public make better, safer decisions.
We only publish mugshots if:
- that suspect is on the loose and could harm people.
- it could help law enforcement gather information in that case.
- that person has been convicted of a crime. If we learn that someone was wrongly convicted, we will take the mugshot down and print a correction.
- As humans, we have our biases, but we’re trained as journalists to refrain from letting those biases enter our coverage. However, we do make mistakes. If you notice bias or unfairness in our reporting, we invite you to draw our attention to it. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Part of our job is to take a good, hard look at ourselves and make sure our values and experiences do not affect our reporting.
Here’s a breakdown of journalism jargon so we’re all on the same page:
- “On the record” means that the information you are providing can be used in our publication and will be attributed to you as a source. This can take the form of a direct quote, or can be paraphrased by the reporter.
- “On background” means that the information can be used in a story but cannot be in quotes or attributed to the person. We generally use background information to get started on a story, and then fact-check and get on-the-record sources to back that information up.
- “Off the record” means that the information being given is not able to be used in a story at all.
We do not expect people to know these things. The terms of an interview will be agreed upon by both parties. Information sent to the publication, however, is on the record, unless agreed otherwise. Requests to move information from on the record to off the record will be considered on a case-by-case basis but this is generally not policy.
Meet our team
Megan Stokes, Editor-in-Chief
Megan oversees editorial content, policy and staff. She attends meetings, writes copy, sends out the e-newsletter, and curates conversations on social media. She also works to create partnerships that can strengthen the bond between community and newsroom.
Megan has served as a community journalist for more than 15 years, including as associate editor for the East Orlando Sun and a reporter for the Seminole Voice, the Winter Park-Maitland Observer and Orlando Magazine. She served as treasurer for the Florida Press Club for seven years and has won awards from the Florida Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University.
Isaac Benjamin Babcock, Managing Editor
Isaac creates editorial plans, working closely with the community to identify issues that affect people’s everyday lives. He is a photojournalist and runs our podcast and video production. He also heads our internship program, instilling a passion for journalism in the next generation.
Isaac is a longtime local journalist and former managing editor of the Seminole Voice. His work has been featured in Golfweek magazine, the New York Times and Jalopnik. He has won more than a dozen Florida Press Association and Society of Professional Journalists awards and contributed to award-winning, in-depth work for the NPR member station 90.7 WMFE. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Central Florida, and may be best known for his roles in the annual Oviedo Cemetery Tour.
Jenny A. Babcock, Development and Marketing Director
Jenny heads up Oviedo Community News’ fundraising and promotional efforts. She works to establish our brand, develop partnerships, and create relationships with readers, businesses and organizations.
Jenny is a communications and marketing professional and multimedia journalist who has worked in community newspapers, magazines and public radio. She previously managed communications and marketing strategy for Orlando’s NPR station, 90.7 WMFE, and served as managing editor and reporter for the Seminole Voice and Winter Park-Maitland Observer. She currently serves as marketing and communications manager for Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Central Florida. Learn more at jennyababcock.com.
Jon Gallagher, Digital Manager
Jon is our web guy and copy editor. He designed our website and makes sure our articles are squeaky clean. He not only checks for typos and grammatical errors, but also fact checks everything to ensure you’re getting the most reliable journalism possible.
Jon worked for community newspapers the Winter Park-Maitland Observer, the Seminole Voice, and the East Orlando Sun, as well as community magazine Baldwin Park Living. During his five-plus years in journalism, he worked mainly as a copy editor and graphic designer.
Alex Babcock, Senior Editor
Alex knows the Greater Oviedo community like the back of his hand. Using his expertise and great affection for the area, he’ll thoughtfully guide our coverage.
Alex’s career in journalism took off in Oviedo, where he created the Seminole Chronicle newspaper before taking the helm of the Oviedo Voice. He fell in love with the Greater Oviedo area through living there; attending community meetings, church sermons and festivals; and through many friendly chats. His tour in the Army brought that journalistic skill to Afghanistan and back, before he returned to Seminole County to raise a family. He’s a product of UCF’s journalism school and remains a loyal fan of the Knights.
We want to hear from you. If you have a question or just want to have a conversation about what we do, please reach out to us.
To contact us, email email@example.com, attention to the staff member you need to reach. You can also call 321-307-8023.
Contact Megan if you have a question about a story, need to request a correction or want to learn more about our policies or standards.
Contact Jenny if you have questions about making a donation, becoming a member, becoming a sponsor or advertising with us.
Contact Isaac if you have a story idea or want to learn more about internship opportunities.